As the finishing touches for Audi Field continue to come together, D.C. United (1-5-2) venture to California to face the San Jose Earthquakes (2-5-3) this Saturday. Match coverage kicks off at 10 PM ET from Avaya Stadium. United are itching to claim their first road victory of the season against a San Jose team that sits in a similar position, having achieved only one road victory this year to go with two wins and five losses overall.
San Jose is the second stop of United's four-game western road trip that will culminate in mid-June against the Seattle Sounders. With a possible 18 points remaining on the table before the opening of Audi Field on July 14, this trio of tenacious Western Conference opponents (San Jose, LAFC, and Seattle) will provide an important challenge to Ben Olsen and company.
It's been eight months since United last took on the Earthquakes, and the Black-and-Red faithful were treated to a spectacular performance from the home team. United demolished San Jose at RFK Stadium by way of a 4-0 victory, making some history in the process. The triumph featured a record-setting, four-goal performance in the second half from forward Patrick Mullins, and also featured goalkeeper Steve Clark’s United debut and first shutout for the club.
The Black-and-Red will be working to earn a similarly emphatic win come Saturday against the Quakes. While San Jose aren't off to the strongest start, they still feature a number of threats capable of posing formidable challenges when the squad is firing on all cylinders. This season, Danny Hoesen (5 goals) and Valeri "Vako" Qazaishvili (3 assists) have proven to be the dynamic duo for the Earthquakes offensively. The players rank first and second, respectively, in total shots for San Jose, as Hoesen has racked up 33 (16 on goal) and Vako has tallied 27 (9 on goal). Veteran forward Chris Wondolowski also continues to produce, whether it's from a starting role or off the bench, having recorded two goals and two assists this year.
Defensively, Florian Jungwirth and Harold Cummings have been the mainstay central defenders for the San Jose back line. Jungwirth is a physical presence who ranks ninth in the league for tackles with 32 and fourth in the league for interceptions with 32. Cummings, statistically, is not far behind, and the center back duo have repeatedly shown flashes of their stout defensive efforts and how they’re capable of pairing to effectively protect their net.
United are still working to put together a complete, 90-minute performance, but showed signs of improvement in their match against Real Salt Lake as they played with heart for the entirety of the game despite going down a man early. Paul Arriola scored his first goal of 2018, and Zoltán Stieber’s offensive production continued for the second game in a row as he recorded an assist on Arriola’s score. Chris Durkin also earned his first career professional assist, providing the secondary pass to Steven Birnbaum's late score.
Defensively, the Black-and-Red are focused on putting forth a lockdown performance in the pursuit of their second shutout of the season. Last week’s hot start against Real Salt Lake was tainted by an early defensive red card, leaving head coach Ben Olsen with a decision to make in the back line due to the suspension of Joseph Mora, and leaving United searching for a balance of aggressive but smart defending.
As the road to Audi Field stretches on, the Black-and-Red are hungry for a positive boost of momentum to help continue pushing them through to their July homecoming. Tune in on Saturday night to watch as United push to make it back-to-back wins over the Earthquakes.